Saturday, April 10, 2010

Your Private Life Gives Public Witness

A word of warning for the thousands entering Louisville next week for the Together 4 the Gospel Conference: what you do in the privacy of your hotel room can be a witness against the gospel. Think this is unwarranted?

From Steve Farrar's Finishing Strong:
A number of years ago a national conference for church youth directors was held at a major hotel in a city in the mid-west. Youth pastors by the hundreds flooded into that hotel and took nearly every room. At the conclusion of the conference, the hotel manager told the conference administrator that the number of guests who tuned into the adult movie channel broke the previous record, far and away outdoing any other convention in the history of the hotel.

My friend Justin Holcomb, who is a sociologist, an author, a pastor at Mars Hill Seattle, director of Mosaic Peace, and the academic dean of Re:Train helped me in looking into this phenomenon, recalling from his own research in an email to me:
I interviewed hotel managers about this when I was teaching in the sociology department at Univ of Virginia. All managers said that porn rates increase during conferences in general. That's normal because they have more guests. A few admitted that it seems to be the same or a bit more when Christian conferences come to town. One manager was a Christian and he said a line I'll never forget: "Unfortunately, 'they know you are Christians by consumption' is more truthful than 'love' when it comes to this."

Friends, this should not be.

We may flood to the area hotels next week and outwardly demonstrate a solid witness for the gospel, and then put a black eye on the church, thinking viewing pornography in our hotel room is easy, confidential, and inconsequential. Will the church stun Louisville hotel managers with its porn consumption next week?

If you believe you are susceptible to this, take precautions now. Secure a roommate, have your TV removed or stations blocked, whatever you have to do. Thinking longer term, utilize Internet filters or accountability software, or seek out help with a pastor or counselor if you need it.

And of course you shouldn't not view porn next week merely because you could contribute to a black eye to the bride of Christ. You should not view it any time because it dishonors God and because the joys of Christ and his gospel are stronger and more fulfilling than lustful indulgence.

Blessings, T4G'ers. Watch your life and your doctrine closely, because your private life gives public witness, whether you realize it or not.


Matt Taylor said...

Thanks for the loving warning. It is obvious that God is working through you to love the brothers.

There is something to the fear of God being the beginning of wisdom. To begin to embrace the infinite grace found in the Gospel we must first see the infinite wrath due to us for our sins. May this realization help us to overcome all sin. Especially the ones that God tells us to flee from.

I thank God that the punishment for my sins was laid on Jesus. May we have no more to lay on him. Come Lord Jesus!

The battle is hard but it ends in the fullness of joy. Fight!

Bryan L. Fordham said...

Good article. I remember that paragraph from Finishing Strong well.

I would change one sentence, though, to "Thinking longer term, utilize Internet filters or accountability software, and seek out help with a pastor or counselor."

Rob Tims said...

My wife worked for landmark hotel in downtown Dallas for a year or two. Ditto at her hotel. One reason among many to BRING YOUR WIFE (!) to the conferences!

I was chastised by an administrator/executive pastor for using "my" conference expenses for my wife's attendance. One of the many experiences God used to move me to the teaching pastorate (in a church where all staff members' wives are "strongly encouraged" to attend conferences with their husbands). See you at T4G!

prin said...

Um, maybe therein lies the failure of trying to follow rules when your heart really, really isn't into it? Shutting off the tv won't change a heart.

Jared said...

prin, right. Thus the 2nd to last paragraph.

Managing behavior is no substitute for killing sin, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't help. I would hide the liquor from an alcholic too.

Unknown said...

Just wondering how Ephesians 5:5 factors into this ("For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.")? None of us are sinless, but should the porn use increase if even most of the people at the conference are genuinely regenerated?

Andrew Terry said...

I am really disgusted; Not self-righteously either. I am disgusted because I wonder if I would be strong enough to avoid such a temptation. I know the depravity of my heart and how deceitful it really is. My flesh would relish at the opportunity of being alone with access to such material. Even the movie channels with adult themed shows is enough to indulge the flesh.

I don't think this is a matter of having a changed heart or not as Prin suggests. At home and work you can have the web filters, blocks on TV and numerous accountability around. But, in a hotel room when no one is perceived to be looking temptation will abound. What responds is not me but what Paul calls the "sin that dwells within me" (Romans 7:17).

Removing the TV does not change the heart however it is an excellent way to "avoid from every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

My first choice though would be to take my wife. :)

Luke Gilkerson said...

Scary quote: They'll know we are Christians by our porn consumption. Sad but true.

I've often wondered if there is something about Christian culture that actually makes us MORE susceptible to porn struggles. For those in the life of the church who don't cling to the life of Christ, I can only imagine this is the case. Without the gospel, being immersed in a moralistic culture only serves to provoke our sinful nature.

Mark said...

I agree Luke, avoiding temptation without the gospel seems to be a fruitless path.